Utilities in Zurich
Tenants usually have to pay for at least some of their utilities in Zurich. Costs for water, heating and sometimes cleaning of communal areas like stairs, elevators and garages, are included in leases and listed as Nebenkosten (maintenance).
Electricity in Zurich
Electricity current in Switzerland is 220 V and 50 Hz. Electrical appliances from other European countries can generally be used with an adaptor.
Expats with appliances from non-compatible countries will need to use a transformer. However, the wattage for heating appliances like irons, hairdryers and toasters can be so high that a more powerful adapter is necessary. These adapters are expensive, difficult to get and need to be installed by a professional electrician.
Expats will need to sign up for electrical services when they move into a house or apartment. Expats using relocation companies are usually assisted with this. In Zurich, this is done by calling the Elektrizitätswerk der Stadt Zürich (EWZ).
Those who live outside the city but within the canton of Zurich need to call Elektrizitätswerke des Kantons Zürich (EKZ). They will also be able to provide the relevant phone number in villages with a separate power plant.
Electricity is billed by the state-owned electricity company and it’s possible to pay bills automatically via a bank or post office account. Tenants can also opt for electricity plans like solar, water or nuclear energy.
Water in Zurich
Water is provided to properties in Zurich as part of Nebenkosten (maintenance), but apartment buildings may have specific regulations. For example, hot water may be turned off late at night to reduce usage.
Lake Zürich is the city's main source of drinking water, and while not all Swiss water comes directly from a mountain spring, the water quality is nevertheless excellent. Regular tap water is always drinkable, as is water from public fountains, except in the rare cases when a sign states otherwise.
The exception to the rule is water in trains – rather wait for the minibar service to pass by.
Waste disposal and recycling in Zurich
The Swiss recycling system is well organised, and every city and village has its own waste disposal schedule and recycling plan.
Waste must be placed in specially marked garbage bags which can be bought from supermarkets. Garbage deposited in other bags won't be collected and there are fines for using non-approved bags. Materials that can't be placed in regular garbage bags include vegetable waste, glass, paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, batteries, oils, metal, clothes and aluminium.
Food leftovers and garden waste can be put in green containers that are often located near apartment blocks. Glass and metal should be thrown into specially marked containers while plastic bottles and batteries can be returned to supermarkets. Paper and cardboard should be tied with string and placed outside for collection on specially allotted days.
Cable television in Zurich
Most apartments in Zurich are already connected to the television network. The cost is usually included in the monthly rent, but this is only for the connection and not for any extra channels or provider services.
Expats with a radio or television who are staying in the city for more than three months will need to register with Billag, the agency that collects licence fees for the Swiss government. Fees are paid quarterly and residents who don't sign up are fined.
Telephones in Zurich
A number of providers in Switzerland provide fixed line and mobile phone services, including Swisscom, Sunrise, Salt Mobile and UPC Cablecom. Prices vary, so it's wise to compare before selecting one.
Telephone lines are connected within four days after the application is received. In apartments that are new or have been empty for a long time, an electrician might be needed at the tenant's expense and it will take longer. Expats should also be aware that installing additional telephone plugs is the tenant's responsibility, but they can't be removed when their lease ends.
It is possible to install a digital line, which can provide multiple lines off of one connection. Installation costs are reasonable but there is an additional fee on top of the monthly rental for a standard telephone. Bills arrive monthly and are payable within 30 days.